Over time I have developed my own little theory that much of the anti-Americanism that can be found in the German media is the result of the deliberate and collective efforts of a special group of activists: the German correspondents in the U.S. We have collected quite a few examples (you have to scroll down the linked page) of biased reporting from this group in our blog.
And here's another striking example: Michael Backfisch. The irony is - the guy works for Germany's # 1 business daily Handelsblatt, not for some traditionally loony Left media outlet such as Frankfurter Rundschau, SPIEGEL or Stern.
During a Foreign Press Center Briefing at the U.S. Department of State on January 3, 2005, William Garvelink, U.S. Agency of International Development, and Brigadier General John Allen, U.S. Department of Defense, made a very comprehensive and detailed presentation of the American Government's assistance to the countries in South East Asia that have to cope with the devastation caused by the tsunami catastrophe. In the ensuing Q&A session with international journalists questions were asked about the enormous challenges facing the relief operation, about the security situation in some of the more remote areas, about the delay in reaction to the earth quake and the tsunami, and so on. All journalistic questions addressed serious logistics issues of the U.S. operation.
There was just one journalist who had the nerve to pose a question that was purely motivated by distrust and antipathy against the American government's relief operation:
MR. DENIG (moderator): Okay. Let's go to Germany, up front here.
QUESTION: Michael Backfisch, Germany's business daily, Handelsblatt.
It's a tremendous effort you're conducting right now. And how far are there political considerations? You know, there has been high criticisms of the war in Iraq. And how far is it the attempt of the United States to present itself as the benevolent superpower and to decrease the criticism of the past, especially in countries like Indonesia, which is a very important Muslim country?
Now, Backfisch may be ideogically one-eyed - but he's not an idiot (I give him the benefit of the doubt). He couldn't possibly have expected an affirmative answer to his question, like: "You caught us, smart guy. Yes, sure, this whole help operation is just meant to present the United States as the benevolent superpower! All we want is people to forget about the Iraq war."
Instead, of course, the answer of the officials was predictably different from Backfisch's assertion:
MR. GARVELINK: Well, the Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance and the Office of Food for Peace, which respond to these disasters on behalf of the U.S. Government and the Agency for International Development, are charged to respond to humanitarian needs, wherever they occur in the world, without regard to politics. That sometimes may be a little hard to believe, but these offices respond to humanitarian needs.
So when this happened and our initial teams got on the ground and began their assessment, we're responding to the needs as we see them, as the requirements have become known to us. (emphasis added)
The sole reason for Backfisch's question was to introduce the concept of an immoral motivation of the U.S. government's help efforts to an audience of international journalists - in the hope some would pick up the story ("More and more international observers question the motives of the U.S. administrations relief efforts for the tsunami victims...")
BTW, Backfisch is no stranger to hate-filled rhetoric in qualifying the policies of the U.S. current administration. Here is an example from his blog at Handelsblatt "Transatlantischer Beobachter" ("Transatlantic observer"):
In fact there are signs of a war of the civilizations in America: Seldom has there been so much hate, pharisaicalness, crusader-mentality that reminds of witch burnings. So the newly elected Republican Senator Tom Coburn from Oklahoma is demaning the death penalty for doctors who perform abortions. 75 percent of Bush supporters are convinced that Saddam Hussein cooperated closely with the terror network Al-Qaeda or was even responsible for the attacks of September 11. Will it soon be taught in the schools that the earth is flat? Faith, values, religion have a high popularity in the USA that is seldom. (emphasis added)
The America correspondent of Germany's # 1 business daily Handelsblatt (I have to repeat his job description in connection with this quote) completely lost his temper describing the campaign strategy of President Bush in October 2004:
With that the born-again Christian Bush has once again revealed his true arsenal in the fight for the White House: When things get close, he fires off hate torpedos, operates with personal attacks and panic tactics. A bang-bang argument, that reminds one of the "Socialist Realism" of earlier days. Or to the agitation canonade a bit further back in history (Are we drawing comparisons to the Nazis here, Mr. Backfisch? How appropriate for a German...). The Bush camp pushes the niveau of the political contest to ever new low points. In the end it is only just about "wumm" and "peng": Pure dumbing down.
You may want to congratulate Handelsblatt (editor in chief is Bernd Ziesemer) for this gem of an unbiased, nuanced journalist. With journalistic qualifications like Mr. Backfisch's a job as a Washington correpondent for a reputable German media outlet is virtually assured.